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The secret of Jo’s Chicken Inasal

25 April 2019

If there is one dish that defines Ilonggos in the Philippines it could only be chicken inasal, a variant of the roasted chicken dish that gets its distinctive flavor and color from a marinade of vinegar, calamansi (or lime), lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and the all-important achuete oil.

Chicken Inasal has become very popular across the Philippines in recent years largely because of the success of “Mang Inasal,” the food chain first set up in Iloilo city by a young local entrepreneur.

The restaurant chain became an instant success that in no time, the giant Jollibee Food Corporation bought a 70% stake in the company for a whopping P3billion in 2010.

To date, Jollibee owns the entire Mang Inasal chain.

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One Ilonggo whose chicken inasal can rival that which brought untold riches to Mang Inasal’s founder is Jo Campos, who traces her roots to the Duro clan in Dumangas, Iloilo. Jo, a former OFW in Hong Kong, has returned home to start a food catering business with her niece, May. Their joint venture quickly became a success that they now count among their clients some of the more popular movie and TV stars in the country.

Jo has added her own touches to this popular Ilonggo dish that everyone who has tasted her version has become an instant fan. These include a unique process of releasing the full aroma from the lemongrass, and using a Ziploc bag to lock in the flavor of the marinade.


A word of caution, though. Like a real Pinoy chef, Jo does not provide precise measurements, letting her instincts guide her in combining just the right amount of spices and flavorings to bring out the best in each dish, and allowing the cook to vary the taste according to preference.
So, with this recipe comes a wish that everyone who tries to cook chicken inasal the Jo Campos way would achieve the perfect result she never fails to accomplish.
Bon apetit!

Chicken Inasal

Calamansi (or lime juice if calamansi is not easily accessible where you are)
 Lemon grass
Turmeric Ginger (luyang dilaw)
Vinegar (tuba or apple cider is preferable)
Brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil

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1. Cut chicken into quarters, slit parts skin side and on thick parts of the meat
2. Rub salt and pepper on the chicken
3. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine all ingredients except lemon grass, oil and achuete. If using processor, turn to pulse and add a little oil when all ingredients are combined.
4. Lightly pound lemon grass to release aroma and tie them in a knot.
5. Transfer marinade mixture and chicken pieces in a ziploc bag and rub thoroughly. Seal back and let meat marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight.
6. In a large pan, pour all marinated chicken and bring to a boil.
7. Adjust heat to low. Simmer.
8. Prepare achuete oil by heating some oil in a small pan till hot enough and remove from heat. Add achuete. Strain atchuete oil when the color is released making sure not to burn it.
9. Remove chicken from pan and drain. Boil the remaining marinade till reduced to be used for basting in the grill.
10. Grill on hot charcoal while basting with the prepared marinade and achuete oil.
Jo Campos (right) with The SUN Editor Caisy CL. Mandap and Publisher Leo A. Deocadiz

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